Tag: curriculum development

Newsletter for November 2009: The Third Element of Effective Structure

November 3rd, 2009

The Synthesis Fugue

What kind of music do you enjoy? If you’re like me you appreciate a broad spectrum. So far today I’ve listened to Bach, Radiohead, Ryan Adams, and The Rolling Stones. The music I’m drawn to tends to result from synthesis: the combining of multiple, different parts into a complex whole. Attend the symphony and you’ll experience the splendid coalescence of myriad, unique aural expressions.

Synthesis, the third step in our learning structure, is when we collaborate with our audience to reassemble the elements explored during the process phase into a new coherent whole. Imagine you are the conductor. The orchestra is your audience. Together you are working to shape something resonant and memorable.

A powerful shift happens as you progress from Introduction through Process and into Synthesis. The topic you present in the Introduction, though helpful for the purposes of orienting your audience, is as yet abstract to everyone but you. Imagine if you told me, “Today we’re going to talk about native vegetation.” I would know what we’re discussing, but I wouldn’t have any relationship to the topic. It remains intangible to me. Process allows me to explore the content and make it my own. I can ask questions, deepen my understanding, and at least begin to satisfy my curiosity. Through synthesis we can then create a new form, or composition, that has personal meaning and relevance to each individual.

Too often, because we bypass the process phase, synthesis becomes merely a reiteration of what was stated in the introduction. For example, an introduction may be, “Smoking cigarettes is harmful to your health.” The “synthesis” that follows falls flatly as, “Furthermore, don’t smoke. It’s bad for you.” This prevents the message from taking root and yielding change because the topic remains distant and impersonal to the audience.

Synthesis offers the opportunity to make meaning of process. The presenter or educator can facilitate synthesis by bundling together comments from the audience into likenesses, then reframing the main message after integrating input. This is a far cry from traditional approaches wherein we state the message in our terms, irrespective of participants’ voices.

In summary, a solid Introduction promotes productive, divergent Process, which in turn allows for constructive Synthesis. Keep in mind that all of these elements apply to both formal and informal presentations. What applies to teaching a workshop will also be relevant in a dialogue with your coworkers or children. Fidelity to each element will enhance the potency of all our interactions.

It’s great to be working with you to promote meaningful, lasting change.

Best,

Questions? Send me an email.

    The Bottle, Light and Master: Tools and Intent

    October 19th, 2009

    I asked my young daughter the other day to turn off the dome light above the seat opposite to hers in the rear of our minivan. I was at a stoplight and watched in the rearview mirror as she struggled to reach it. Her arms were too short. Then she produced an empty water bottle, which she used to span the distance and turn off the light. Her face beamed with satisfaction at having found a tool to solve the problem.

    I’m fascinated by the relationships humans have with tools. As the story of my daughter demonstrates, the purpose of a tool is to successfully overcome a problem. In fact, such problems as this create opportunities for us to tap our human creativity and ingenuity. We seek out a tool to enlist in our problem-solving efforts.

    But in relation to tools, I find one of two realities is possible: I am using the tool, or it is using me. Any time my intent becomes subservient to the tool—rather than the tool serving my intent—that tool is using me.

    In education, for example, the intent of a teacher ought to be to help students learn and understand. Curricula, created as tools to enhance learning, can assume a determinative role in the learning process. Instead of tapping curricula as a resource to help deepen student understanding, we defer to the curriculum to tell us what we ought to do. The tool becomes our master.

    Tools are meant to avail us of our innate gifts. They are channels for human expression: Jimi Hendrix and his guitar, Pablo Picasso and his brushes, J.K. Rowling and her pen and napkin. A right relationship with a tool promotes the expression of our humanity. When tools use us, less of our unique humanity shines forth for others to see, know, and experience.

    If you manage a team of people, you employ tools to build an efficient team of people that trust each other and enjoy working cooperatively. If you are a parent, you may borrow principles and ideas to help you relate to your children. Whatever your context, you have a challenge you are trying to address. Tools can add potency to your efforts. What they can’t do is be a substitute for you.

      Newsletter for October: The Second Element of Effective Structure

      October 5th, 2009

      Process is to learning what digestion is to eating. Content that people make their own is content that can change their lives. To make our work as meaningful as possible we have to allow time for others to process what we’re discussing. This is exactly like the digestion process by which our bodies break down food and make it something we can use.

      I played soccer throughout high school and college. During each high school season we’d gather at a teammate’s house the night before the game. The menu was always the same: spaghetti. In addition to building camaraderie, the high carbohydrate fare helped fuel us up to play the next day. Our bodies required approximately 24 hours to digest the pasta and extract the necessary nutrients.

      Imagine playing a soccer game immediately after eating three helpings of spaghetti. Not a pretty thought. (Viewers of The Office should have no problem conjuring an image here.) But sadly this is what many educational approaches amount to–a spaghetti feed/soccer game.

      Without process we can’t assume any material we present will be relevant to our listeners. The goal of the process phase is to help others take ownership of the content we present. They do so by strengthening their relationship to the content. Through process we can afford participants the opportunity to more deeply understand and internalize the risks of alcohol, for example, resulting in their truly owning their convictions surrounding alcohol use. This ownership can lead to changed action.

      Underlying process is the opportunity for abstract, intangible ideas (think “Just say no”) to be more concrete. As ideas become more concrete they become more real. Then they have power to alter our perception.

      It’s great to be working with you to promote meaningful, lasting change.

      Send an email to andrewfrobinson@aweber.com to subscribe to future newsletters.

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